Birthday hat trick propels Christopher past MVC, 3-2

Vanessa Koontz had a night to remember, even if she is used to having big games.
Koontz had a hat trick to lead Christopher past Monte Vista Christian, 3-2, Friday night and on her birthday no less.
The team sang happy birthday to an exhausted Koontz after the game and after she put the team on her shoulders to the tune of three goals, including the game winner in the 47th minute.
She had three goals, two in the first and one in the second half, and nearly had two more within 10 minutes of her final goal.
Koontz hit the post in the 52nd minute after she got past the defense and put a strike on goal that the MVC keeper had no chance at stopping.
She then had a shot on goal in the 57th minute that the Mustang goalie nearly juggled into the net.
Koontz attributed the chances to her whole team that helped create those open spaces that she attacked
“It was just reading (the defense) and talking out there,” Koontz said. “We are really coming together as a team and they saw the openings and we really just put it together.”
And Koontz’ night was a microcosm of the overall night by Christopher.
The Cougars had 19 shots on goal, 11 in the first half alone. By contrast, MVC had three shots on goal and none in the second half.
“I thought we moved the ball around (well) and we controlled possession of the game,” said coach Chip Beardsley. “I thought we held possession throughout. And Vanessa had the game of her life. She created so many chances just by her movement.”
Christopher’s attack was the main reason why Monte Vista couldn’t get going in the second half.
The Cougars continued to press into the Mustangs’ zone and routinely got behind the final line of attack, but couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.
“Although I’m happy offensively, I think that we’ve got to finish. We’ve got to put teams away when we should,” Beardsley said.
That attack was key as MVC had a devastating counter strike that led to the two teams being tied at the half.
Koontz scored the first goal in the third minute after the Mustang keeper misplayed a ball and she was left with an easy tap into the back of the net.
But just six minutes later, Kailey Morrell scored on a rebound shot after the Cougars couldn’t clear the ball for a 1-1 tie.
Koontz broke the tie in the 29th minute on a counter attack after MVC failed to score on a brilliant opportunity.
After a goal kick, Koontz took the ball the final 25 yards, dribbling past two defenders and put a strong kick on goal.
But again, Christopher couldn’t hold the lead.
MVC blitzed the defense on the ensuing kickoff and Haley Velocci tapped in a rebound on a shot from Morrell in the 31st minute.
The two teams went into the half tied where Christopher made some adjustments on defense to hold off the strong counter attacks.
“Really, their counters were created by our mistakes in the back. We made a couple of mistakes in the back where they got a counter,” Beardsley said.
He said that thanks in large part to the defensive play by Erin Mank who helped settle things down.
“She changes everything and can cut everything off,” Beardsley said. “She started slowing everything down. She knew that at halftime we talked about the breakaways in the transitions.”
It paid off as the Mustangs were held scoreless for 40 minutes without so much as a clean shot on goal.
Christopher improves to 7-1-1 overall and 1-1 in Gabilan Division play.
The Cougars move on to play Alisal 5:45 p.m. Wednesday.

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